ACM Awards: Winners Accept Their Trophies with All the Feels

When Reba McEntire joked on Sunday night (April 7) that the ACM Awards had been renamed Dan and Shay’s Excellent Adventure, it was funny because it was true. The duo didn’t technically didn’t win all the awards, but they won enough to take the stage three times.

For the ACM Award for song for the year for “Tequila,” Dan + Shay’s Dan Smyers talked as fast as he could so he could fit in all the people he needed to thank. “I’m so nervous right now. This is incredible. Thank you to the Academy. Everybody who voted for our song. Thank you to country radio for playing this song. Everybody in country music: thank you so much for accepting us into this family,” Smyers said. “This is a dream come true for us. We love you. Cheers.”

When they returned to the stage to pick up their ACM Award for single record of the year, Smyers thanked his wife and all the musicians who’d played on the song. But it was Mooney who did most of the talking. “I don’t know if this is real life. I couldn’t really see what was happening,” he joked, “because I was behind Charles Kelley. I have no idea what is happening right now.” He went on to thank both his wife and Smyers’ wife, plus his sisters there watching, and the rest of his family at home. “Country music and country radio, you have absolutely changed our lives.”

Again their names were called when it came time to honor the duo of the year. “I think somebody got the cards mixed up tonight,” Smyers said to acknowledge their good fortune in the first half of the show. “We owe this award so much to our team. We have such an incredible team that fights for us every single day. This is such an incredible category to be a part of. We are all winners tonight.” Mooney added that aside from the nights he got married and became a father, it was probably the greatest night of his life.

The always-affable Thomas Rhett won male artist of the year, and he was quick to let everyone know that he was in that category with some of his best friends. “I’m gonna give this to Dan and Shay, so they can go home with four. Oh my gosh. Man, I love country music so much. Thank you guys so much for just loving my songs,” he said right before he thanked his “smokin’ hot wife” Lauren. “We are best friends with all the people in this category, and y’all shaped who I am as an artist.” With just 13 seconds left in his allotted time on stage, he threw in his gratitude for God, Jesus and Lord.

Fresh off her Grammy wins, Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour was named the album of the year. She kept her speech brief, but still managed to have all the right words. “Man, making this album alongside my friends, some of the greatest memories of my entire life. I truly, truly appreciate this,” she said, “and the chance to share my perspective. Thank you to everyone out there still supporting and buying records. It means everything to me.”

George Strait was at the show to perform, and then to perform again with Miranda Lambert, but he also had another pretty big assignment. He was there to pass the Dick Clark Artist of the Decade Award baton to Jason Aldean. And the first thing Aldean did was point out that Strait was the reason he wears the cowboy hat. “Man, I don’t know. I look out, and I see a lot of artists out here that have had a hell of a decade,” he said pointing to his peers in the crowd. “My whole team, thank you for the last 15 years. Everybody. More than anything, thank you to the country music fan and country radio: you guys have changed my life forever. This is one of the proudest nights of my life. I appreciate it.”

Close to the end of the broadcast, the female artist of the year was named, and for the second time during the show, it was Musgraves who took the stage to accept. “Thank y’all. I really didn’t except this, but I’m so thankful for the chance to get to share my lyrical perspective and my voice as well. I have to say that this award goes out to any woman or girl — or anybody, really — that is maybe being told that her perspective or her style is too different to work. Stay at it. It’ll work out.”

As is typically the case, the ACM saved the best for last. McEntire, Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks came together for the final honor of the night: entertainer of the year.

And finally, it was Keith Urban.

This was Urban’s ninth nomination in the category, but his first win for entertainer of the year. And he accepted it with pleasure.

“Thank you so much. I’m running out of time. Baby girl,” Urban said to his wife Nicole Kidman, standing down in front of the stage with her eyes welling up with tears, “I love you so much.

“To the fans out there, you are amazing. You have no idea how much this means to me. God bless every one of you.”

See the complete list of winners on

Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.